The Field Operation Branch of the Division for Air Quality (DAQ) determines compliance through inspections performed at facilities that emit air pollutants. Eight regional field offices are located throughout the state, each of which covers specific counties. Facilities are scheduled for inspection based on how they are classified, which is most simply determined by the amounts of pollutants emitted. The highest emitting facilities are classified as Title V sources, followed by conditional major sources and minor sources. These sources are issued permits by the division’s Permit Review Branch. Some sources emit pollutants at levels that do not require them to obtain a permit but are still subject to air quality regulations; these are known as registered sources.
Inspections are also conducted at facilities where asbestos-containing material may be disturbed during demolitions or renovations of structures. School buildings are also periodically inspected to ensure that proper records are maintained regarding the existence and status of asbestos-containing material in their buildings. School inspections verify the accuracy of asbestos records and ensure that students are not exposed to damaged asbestos material.
DAQ is the primary agency responsible for meeting the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) requirements to administer permitting, compliance and enforcement programs. As noted above, the facilities that emit or have the potential to emit the most pollutants are inspected more frequently and may be inspected multiple times per year. EPA requires state air pollution control agencies to conduct comprehensive inspections at Title V sources a minimum of once every two years, but the division may inspect more frequently.
The types of facilities the division inspects include power plants, chemical plants, various manufacturing facilities, printing facilities and rock quarries. Inspections generally fall into one of two categories: in-office inspections and on-site inspections. In-office inspections occur when the inspector reviews records/reports submitted by facilities. On-site inspections include comprehensive full compliance evaluations and partial compliance inspections.
Inspectors also complete incident investigations. Incident investigations are on-site inspections that are prompted by a complaint made by an individual or group. The most common type of complaint investigations are for open burning, odor and fugitive emissions (dust).
All inspectors are environmental scientists who have completed bachelor’s degrees and numerous training courses offered by EPA, the Division, and other air quality professionals.
DAQ’s compliance rate for facility inspections varies slightly from year to year but is fairly high, ranging from around 85 percent – 90 percent each year. The inspection program is effective at identifying noncompliance and facilitating a return to compliance for sources that are in violation. For information on current statistics for the Field Operations Branch see the Field Operations portion of the most recent DAQ Annual Report.
The division issues inspection reports for every inspection or investigation conducted. The inspection reports include an overall compliance determination as well as a compliance determination for each requirement/regulation included in the report. The compliance ratings that may be recorded on the inspection report are as follows:
- No violations observed.
- No violations observed but impending trends -- this rating indicates that the facility is in compliance but is approaching a violation.
- Violations documented -- this rating indicates that a violation has occurred, but it is minor and nonrecurrent in nature.
- Letter of Warning -- this rating indicates that a violation has occurred that is more than minor in nature. This rating prompts an additional document to be issued known as a Letter of Warning.
- Notice of Violation -- this rating is reserved for the most serious violations and prompts an additional document to be issued known as the Notice of Violation. A Notice of Violation includes remedial measures and often deadlines for the facility to return to compliance. Some Notices of Violation are referred to the Division of Enforcement for further action that may include penalties.